Beat Bugs: Winter break fun

As I watched with a group of children, we could not take our eyes of the television screen as we entered the world of imaginary bugs building colorful homes in an over grown backyard. I wanted to check out the grass in our own backyard…just at that moment.. but was afraid I would hurt them.

The Beat Bugs explored, invented and sometimes found themselves in trouble, one who actually got stuck in a bottle that was filling with water, but someone was there to help. Crick, Jay, Buzz, Kumi, and Walter are the main Beat Bugs who are always learning lessons and there are visiting bugs and creatures that help teach those valuable life lessons. Postman Bee works as a postal worker and there is Doris the Spider who actually teaches the bugs to see beauty in everything including her webbing.

After watching several shows one boy said that because of Doris the Spider, he wasn’t going to be afraid of spiders anymore. Great New Years resolution!

Beat Bugs is an Emmy Award winning animated preschool series that airs on Netflix about a bunch of cute bugs who go on fun adventures. Many of the adventures are inspired by familiar Beatles songs which brought a smile to my face including Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, a dragonfly who appears as the song is played. She is known for her wings resembling diamonds and her kaleidoscopic eyes; a guest bug in the series. Kids are now hearing Beatles songs on this show and are going around singing wherever they go.

Target just launched a huge consumer product line for parents and teachers interested in buying the Beat Bugs.

Beat Bugs Hijinx Alive:

These Beat Bugs character figurines come to life (there’s also a huge plush version) when they hear the show being played on TV (or DVD or the app). They actually start singing at the right time when they hear the characters start to sing from the season 1 episodes. The figures light up and move their mouths when they sing and can also sing along with other Beat Bugs Hijinx alive toys!

Ages 3+, MSRP $24.00 for the 6″figures, Walter Plush version is $29.99 Here’s a link: Hijinx Alive and Hijinx Singing Walter Plush.

Here’s a link of all the toys available– Beat Bugs Complete Consumer Product Line

Check out Beatbugs.com for updated information, things to color and other activities. For parents and teachers, you can help your little one build a terrarium and bring their own garden inside. You can download a free fun activity book filled with coloring pages and practice pages for writing.

The best holiday plays in Chicagoland

My first trip to see the play, A Christmas Carol, was in April… not the holidays.  Mid 1960’s it was hosted at Drury Lane Theater in Evergreen Park and I sat through a 2 1/2 hour show with a broken arm. I tripped on a dimly lit step during an afternoon matinee for my best friend’s birthday party.  Unfortunately, the details of the performance are vague since I was focused on not moving my arm to avoid massive pain. That night, I was hospitalized at South Chicago Hospital which was the way of doing things back then and operated on the next day since my arm was broken in three places.

Since, I have enjoyed numerous performances and movies of A Christmas Carol without interruption. Today, if tickets are still available the Christmas Carol, can be enjoyed in the Chicago land area. Though the Evergreen Park Theater, is no longer open, Drury Lane Theater still exists and is presenting A Christmas Carol between now and Dec 23 at the Oakbrook Terrace theater.

Established in 1925, the Goodman Theatre has been a part of Chicago’s loop for over 80 years and I can’t remember the countless shows I have seen there. However, I will never forget one of the best performances of Long Day’s Journey Into Night. You can also see A Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theatre Chicago through December 31st.

In the late 1960’s, I also got to the see the Nutcracker Ballet though it was difficult for me to understand the story when I was about 7 or 8 because I kept waiting for words in between dances. Though confused, I still could not take my eyes away from the amazing costumes, dance and music.

It is a story written in 1816 by German author E. T. A. Hoffmann, in which young Marie Stahlbaum’s favorite Christmas toy, the Nutcracker, comes alive and, after defeating the evil Mouse King in battle, whisks her away to a magical kingdom populated by dolls. The story begins on Christmas Eve.

I loved ballet and watching them stand on their toes, something I  could never get right.. I, too, took ballet early on as a young girl.

It is strange that I think about the Nutcracker this year since the Joffrey Ballet is performing this holiday masterpiece.  And I saw the Nutcracker again as an adult when the Joffrey was only New York and Los Angeles based. Now, the Joffrey, which trains to the highest standards, lives permanently in a new facility, Joffrey Tower, in Chicago.

It is also strange that I think of my childhood experience with the Nutcracker as I watch my first grade students learning the story in their music class. We have listened to the famous March, read the book, and watched a beautiful video with different interpretations, names, but always followed by the same exceptional music including  Waltz of the Flowers and Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Fifty years later, still, I am mesmerized by the video of creative color and song. My little ones cannot pull their eyes away from the beauty of the Nutcracker either.

 

Decades of holiday decorations

Growing up on the south side of Chicago in the early 1960’s, for my Dad, it was the Christmas Tree. The Christmas tree that was real. Not the fake trees that were first metal, silver and generally had coordinated ball ornaments that were all the same.  The metal tree also rotated in a stand to music with floor lights. My father had to have an 8ft real tree with over 600 colored bulb lights where two lights of the same color were never together, bubble lights which were effectively scattered as well as intricate ornaments  placed with care on each branch to compliment the space. Tinsel was hung one string at a time. And that was it…sometimes he would put colored lights to frame his creation around the front window facing the street.  The tree took hours, sometimes days to complete but it was his masterpiece and still remembered by many today.

After Dad passed away , I tried to carry on the tradition in the 1970’s for my Mother. She switched to a fake, green tree with the new Italian lights and garland while living in Dolton.

And then during the 1980’s and 1990’s, Christmas became more involved with my own little ones and the art of decorating traveled outdoors. I also worked for Christmas Around the World part-time and still have the manger scene today. Now, it wasn’t about just the Christmas tree, though we did have a perfect cathedral ceiling foyer to show off our large green, fake tree. It was about the entire house even changing out the art work to celebrate the holiday. It was about stringing lights to frame the garage and wrapping the garage with ribbon.

And the new millennium came and it was still about Christmas trees, though now we had switched to white lights and lace lights trimmed the porch and frame.  The fake tree finally fell apart and still in the same house with the cathedral ceiling all these years, we are back to a real tree from Home Depot and unfortunately, not quite as large. Though the indoor decorations have remained, the outdoor lights have broken, wreaths have withered, faded, a wooden replica of Rudolph has lost its leg and Santa flying his sleigh with his plastic reindeer have seen much better days.

As for this year specifically, I have had help, we have scaled back as far as outdoor decorations though the weather in Chicago has been unseasonably warm.  A deck decorated in lights from last year still works and flower pots from summer are left in their spots filled now with fake poinsettia leaves and maybe other items from the dollar store.  An easy fix.

It is a little sad for me as I leave for work everyday and think …..hmmm….maybe today when I come home, I will add a few more decorations outside. Though I haven’t yet.

But when I do leave in the morning, it is strange that the sign of hope by my driveway seems to be especially illuminated with light from the sun, sky or the spirit world. Every morning it gives off an unusual brilliance….a special message.

Many friends and family have passed away through the decades, and maybe this is there way of telling me that it doesn’t matter what kind of costly decorations we have to celebrate the holiday season, as long as we share the sign of hope with others, there is nothing else that is more vibrant….more important! There is always hope if we truly believe.

Just thankful

The last day of school was my birthday. Now I am old enough to legally retire but I won’t. It was also Grandparents/ Grand friends Day, surrounded by those that know and truly get me. Not one myself…yet But certainly a celebratory holiday before Thanksgiving break. And when I walked into my first grade class yesterday, the other teacher had a plant, chocolate which I can’t live without, and a beautiful portrait of the twenty three girls and boys holding a Happy Birthday sign.  Then as they do for all birthdays in the classroom, they put together a birthday book for me to treasure. I found out that I was osum (awesome), amazing , nice and actually smart. Who knew?

As the day went on Grandparents visited sharing how we had to walk to school, did not have IPADS and didn’t get a holiday called Grandparents Day when we were growing up. Later in the day after the grand group left, we switched gears and decided to focus on the final turkey project: what I was thankful for this year.  I made one too and it didn’t take me long to write how thankful I was for all of them in the classroom.

The day was not over after coming home to Happy Birthday decorations, hundreds of beautiful Facebook messages which I truly appreciated. Finally, the end of the day approached with a wonderful meal at my favorite restaurant with family.

Today, I decided to think about my own writing of what I was Thankful for back in my day when I was a child. I wonder if  had written a thankful message in first grade? Probably not, because I was not very good in that particular grade. I wondered what my own children had been thankful….probably just an extended holiday from school.

I saved many of my own elementary writings that I had recently bound in a book  according to dates through the years.

So I opened the cover of the book today and was shocked to find one of the first writings saved. It was written on November 21, 1967, my birthday just fifty years ago yesterday…..just. I had just turned 12 and it was written in cursive with ,of course, my favorite type of pen, the blue cartridge. And at the top of the paper it said Warren School, Room 104, Grade 7.

I was thankful for Thanksgiving in the Country

I can’t wait to eat my aunt’s turkey, cranberries, vegetables, mashed potatoes and gravy on Thanksgiving Day. My cousin will be there and we can talk and play games. After dinner we will probably take a ride in the country and see the leaves of red, brown and gold fall from  the trees. We may even see snow. My aunts pumpkin pie will taste good after the long ride. When it is time to leave, I will say to my self “I wish it would never end” but then if it weren’t for the Pilgrims, we would not have this wonderful day to enjoy every year.

Yes, it was family tradition to travel about an hour from the southside of Chicago to a small town just south of Kankakee…in fact there were two towns. When I was very young, it was Kempton where my mother’s family was raised, the small town with the big heart sign always greeted us at the turn off to town and in later years, it was in Cullom, only about 500 people, where my cousins were in charge of dinner just a few miles from Kempton.  Here we would join family for a Thanksgiving feast many who have passed and some who I still keep in touch today.

And my first graders are better writers than I ever was…..

Regardless of whether you are dining together with family or friends in the city or country or spending sometime alone…..Have a blessed Thanksgiving Day!

Become a Volunteer at Hope’ Front Door

By Janell Robinson: Executive Director

Hope’s Front Door provides an entry point to social services for members of our community who need immediate assistance and help in finding continuing assistance.

Our volunteers are the face and heart of our organization. We can’t do what we do without them! Most volunteers work during the hours that Hope’s Front Door is open to clients. Hours are: M, W, Th, & F from 10:00 – 11:45am and Mon evening from 6:30 – 8:00pm. Other volunteer roles work outside of client hours.

Client Interview Volunteer: The Client Interview Volunteer works one-on-one with Hope’s Front Door clients through our Immediate Assistance program. They listen to the client’s concerns and provide help for their urgent needs in the form of vouchers (e.g. grocery gift cards, fuel cards, bus and train passes). The Client Volunteer also provides referral information to other non-profit agencies and government organizations that can offer additional assistance.

We are in need of additional Client Interview Volunteers for our morning and evening hours. The number of days a person wishes to volunteer is flexible. Some volunteers work once or twice a month, others work 1 or 2 days each week. It is dependent on each individual’s circumstances.

Health and Wellness Assistant: The Health and Wellness Assistant works one-on-one with Hope’s Front Door clients addressing needs such as prescriptions, dental care, eye exams/eyeglasses, medical supplies and employment related transportation/uniforms/shoes. They also work with our Health & Wellness resources to link clients with health/disease information and prescription assistance programs. Health and Wellness services are only offered during our morning hours. We are in need of additional volunteers for this role to cover various mornings. A person volunteering in this capacity could also work as a Client Interview Volunteer.

Facilitator: The Facilitator handles the computer responsibilities to confirm client eligibility for service, checks in clients when needed, ensures that the information sheets are filled out, and attaches any supporting documents to the paperwork that the Client Interview Volunteer may need when working with the client. We are looking for volunteers to cover various days during our morning client hours. The volunteer should be comfortable working on a computer and pulling information from our database.

Data Entry: The Data Entry team handles entry of all the information pertaining to our clients and each of their client visits into our database. We are in need of additional volunteers who are computer savvy and would enjoy this type of work. Attention to detail and accurate typing skills are critical. This is typically a once a week opportunity and occurs outside of our client hours.

Office Help: This volunteer (or potentially volunteers) assists HFD with filing. This is a once a week role. A specific day would be determined. Hours could be during or after client hours.

In all cases, Hope’s Front Door will provide training to ensure that a volunteer feels comfortable in their role. We are also be happy to have anyone potentially interested in volunteering to come visit and talk with us during our client hours to see first-hand what we do and how our volunteers interface with our clients.

For more information call 630-322-9803

Trying to preserve love?

For over twenty years, a wall of family photos compliment the staircase to our family home. And one photo scares me as I watch it changing….as I watch three people in the photo keep fading away. My father, Mother and myself taken over 50 +years ago.

Dad passed away two years after the picture was taken and Mother passed away 16 years ago.  Me at 10 years old, was ready to party in one of my best dresses.  Today, I don’t run as fast up and down the stairs. I spend more time staring at pictures from the past.

I remember the moment well when the picture was taken. It was a celebration for a new gift. We were all going out to dinner on Easter. My fathers closest friend just got his first color Polaroid  camera and he couldn’t wait to take a family photo of us. We didn’t have many stills since my father had a movie camera and somebody was usually left out.

Yesterday, I walked down the stairs and noticed how much color had drained and even our facial features had faded…strange, how mine were probably the most prominent. I was the only one still alive? And I had less years in front of me than behind. Does this picture define our earthly existence? How creepy, sad….should I take it down or restore the colors of that evening that I still remembered so perfectly?

Even the picture I took with my cell phone for this article is fuzzy. Is that a coincidence as I think and write of faded photographs, a bad photographer with a poor camera, or a  spiritual answer to my questions.

Later that day, I heard one of my Mother’s favorite songs by the Vogues, Turn Around Look at Me, and if you listen to the words, there is someone who will stand beside you. There is someone who will love and guide you and most importantly, waiting forever for you .

And suddenly, it hit me. For some, a message from God or the spirit of a loved one. The past is the past and memory, pictures, scrapbooks will deteriorate with time but the love expressed in a painting or photo will live on now in this world and the next. In this case, a family that loved each other and a reminder from heaven that true love never dies. I will see them again in new color, image and light. And maybe, just maybe I should be more concerned about right now.

As I gazed at the wall again, I thought that maybe I would create a new element to the staircase. Maybe some of my primitive paintings I am trying to master today would be a creative addition or my daughter and significant other’s current sketches. I will check my computer pictures and cell phone gallery for the latest in family, friends, birthdays, and holidays.

And I am going to leave the first color Polaroid just as it is.

Experience British Adventures with the Iconic ‘The Famous Five’ with a New App by Kuato Studios

London based Kuato Studios partners with Enid Blyton Entertainment to recreate the adventures of The Famous Five in a downloadable children’s app

Children can immerse themselves in a good old-fashioned English adventure with the launch of a new Famous Five mystery game on the App Store by award-winning app developer, Kuato Studios. The launch of the new app coincides with this year’s 75th anniversary of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, a beloved British book series. The Famous Five app will be available in the iOS app store beginning October 25, 2017 for $2.99

Regarded as one of her most popular series, renowned British author, Enid Blyton originally planned to write just six Famous Five books but extended the series to 21, owing to reader demand. Now these much loved characters will enter the digital world with Kuato Studios’ new app!

The Famous Five app has been designed with all the positive values associated with the books in mind, including friendship, heroism, adventure, love of the outdoors and daring.  As with all Kuato games in the Tales Maker series, the app nurtures inquisitive minds and develops literacy skills through storytelling and engaging game play.

The app allows children to explore the iconic world of The Famous Five, a world packed full of English adventure, mystery and intrigue!  Each mystery features unique characters and iconic locations throughout England found in the books, such as the castle ruins of Kirrin Island and Tapper’s Travelling Fair.

The new Kuato game will enthrall Famous Five enthusiasts and those new to the as now, not only can they read about the adventures, but they can also help Julian, Dick, Anne, George and their friendly dog Timmy search for clues, question suspects and solve the mysteries they encounter! With multiple solutions and plot combinations, no single story will ever be repeated and once the mystery has been solved, children can enjoy reading their personalized adventures back in their own game generated storybook!

For Dyslexic readers, there is a section within the Parents Corner where users can choose from accessibility options, including, Open Dyslexic font and color overlays to help readability.

The Famous Five app will be available in the iOS app store beginning October 25, 2017 for $2.99

About Kuato Studios

Backed by Horizons Ventures, Kuato Studios was formed in early 2012 with talent from world-renowned games studios, award-winning education experts and specialists in artificial intelligence. The studio currently has a number of educational game titles: Code Warriors, a coding game for 9-14 year old; and Dino Tales and Safari Tales which were launched in 2015 and focus on literacy skills for 4-10 year olds. The Tales titles have consistently reached #1 in both the Kids and Education charts on the App Store across the world.

About Enid Blyton:

Enid Blyton is one of the world’s best-selling children’s authors. Sales of her books are in excess of 500 million copies, and they have been translated into over 40 languages. Enid Blyton began her career as a school teacher before becoming a bestselling children’s book author, writing over 800 books. In the UK she still sells more than one book a minute and many of her books have been adapted into films and TV series. As well as being regularly voted the UK’s best-loved author, Enid Blyton is the most translated children’s author in the world, according to UNESCO. Her most popular works include: The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, The Naughtiest Girl, The Adventure Series, The Faraway Tree, Twins at St Clare’s and Malory Towers. In 2012, Hachette acquired the intellectual property of the whole of Enid Blyton’s estate (excluding Noddy). In April 2016 Enid Blyton Entertainment was created to represent the fully immersive Entertainment entity.@BlytonOfficial

The Genius of Play shares some of their favorite family play ideas

We all worry about our kids learning to control their emotions. After all, it’s emotions that so often get us off track and into trouble! The Genius of Play, is a national movement with a mission to give families the information and inspiration needed to make play an important part of every child’s life. Fortunately, play can serve as a key tool in helping your child manage their emotions. Play provides children with an opportunity to not only learn how to express themselves, but how to explore and understand their wide range of feelings.

Through play, children learn to cope with emotions as they act out feelings such as anger, sadness or fear, in a situation they control. Imaginative play allows them to think out loud about experiences charged with both pleasant and unpleasant feelings, creating a safe outlet for self expression and self exploration. Plus, by giving children a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, play can help build their confidence and self-esteem.

Erik A. Fisher, Ph.D, aka Dr. E…TM, Emotional Dynamics Expert at Genius of Play, has been changing the lives of children, teens and adults for two decades by encouraging self-empowerment through play.

He opens our discussion by stating that ” often children take their lead on how they learn about their emotions from the adults that guide them. Many of us received very little education on how to manage emotions or the purpose of emotions when we were children, so knowing what to do with your own kids when it comes to emotion can be challenging. I believe that emotions are all there to tell us and teach us about life. For example, the purpose of Anger is to protect. The purpose of Failure is that it tells us when it is time to learn, the purpose of Guilt is that it lets us know when we have done something to others that we need to fix.”

“Too often, we are taught to ignore what our emotions may be trying to tell us, and all too often, many adults don’t know what to do with the emotions that they are feeling. Unfortunately, when adults do not understand, it is difficult for them to properly educate their children.”

“It is for that reason that I often recommend that parents learn right along with their kids and even let their kids be teachers to them. The Genius of Play is a great way for parents to learn about the value of play in various domains, including emotional realms, and I always encourage parents to take a look. I also recommend my parenting book, The Art of Empowered Parenting: The Manual You Wish Your Kids Came With that discusses power, emotion, and how we can learn to manage these challenging aspects of life.”

The Genius of Play, is excited to share some of their favorite play ideas that focus on emotional development and teach children how to express and regulate their emotions.

Kindergarten

· This is a great time to use role playing and engage imagination to work through emotions. Kids at this age are often playing with dolls, puppets and may be starting to play with action figures. Watch the themes of how they play with these toys and the emotions that they may demonstrate through their play. As they may be playing, be willing to get on the floor with them, play and talk about what is going on with their characters and what they may be feeling. You can also play out some of the challenges that they may be having with others through the dolls and show how they can work out their difficulties by you taking on their role. Ask them what the other characters may be feeling when they may play these roles.

· Many children may be exposed to many of the cards, blocks, images, and emoji that denote various emotions. These images that help children identify emotions can be helpful for kids to visually identify what they are feeling so that an adult can help connect the words with the emotions. As these emotions are discussed, let your kids know that these emotions aren’t bad or wrong. They are trying to tell us something. It is the choices that we make when we feel these emotions that we want to be aware of to change. Understanding protective emotions like Anger, Rage, Hatred, Defiance, Sarcasm, Flippancy and Arrogance are trying to help us look strong when we feel weakness inside.

3rd Grade

· Kids have been in school for a few years. They are learning to grasp emotions and experiencing better emotional regulation as their brains also develop. However, the patterns of emotional expression that they learn now can be harder and harder to reverse if they are reinforced and/or if new patterns aren’t learned. While it is always a good time to work on discussing emotions and what they are teaching us, helping to find healthy ways to express them is also important. Charades can be a great game for kids to act out emotions. Making your own game of emotional charades can be a good way to see how your kids view emotions and even to discuss them after a round.

· There are also many board games and books that help kids become aware of various emotions. Exposing them to the uniqueness of each emotion through play and helping them to understand them will be adding to their skill set in real life situations.

5th Grade

· This is a year that kids are still kids, and some are getting closer to adolescence. For some, they are still interested in children’s games, and the same games, cards and emoji can still be helpful to discuss emotions, while for some who want to associate with “older age” activities, they may show no interest in the games of “children”. The issue is that even though kids at this age want to be older, their brains are not developed and they are often playing the emotional games and “writing the emotional checks that they can’t cash”. Making sure that they are processing and understanding emotions is so important at this time of life. Playing games that involve perspective taking, communication, listening closely to how they see the world can help this. Don’t just listen to them when they are aware that you are around, listen when they don’t realize that you are listening. There are many role-playing games that give opportunities to share emotions and see inside of them, as well.

Most importantly, at any age your kids are, Eric suggests that you play with them, and no matter what you are playing talk with them, ask them about how they see life, how they feel about themselves and others, how they feel about you as a parent

It is often when distracted by a game that kids will share more. Listen without judgment, and ask more questions than telling them what to do.

Please click on The Genius of Play for more information.

Unemployment can be a blessing

Since the early beginnings of the millennium, I had been in more than one job followed by doing time on unemployment. Being a single mother at the time and sole provider, I had always taken the first job offer to put food on the table.

For most, becoming unemployed is a serious professional crisis that depletes energy, reputation, self-esteem, health and, of course, money but unemployment can be a gift.

Unemployment offers quality time to be there for others in our life who may be suffering from crisis that is much worse than our own. Our purpose is not what we do but what we can do for others.

Maybe it is in the divine plan that we are forced to take a break and focus on what is important. If not a coincidence, then how do you explain the repeated stories of individuals losing jobs only to find themselves taking care of aging and ill parents during their unplanned sabbatical?

One friend admitted about being able to spend time with Mom located in another state, planning and celebrating Mom’s 90th birthday and experience her passing shortly after.

Three months after her mother’s death, she was offered a job better than the one before her unemployment.

One of my own unemployment stints allowed me to travel daily and take care of my son who was hospitalized and my Mother, who was in a nursing home, all at the same time. My mother passed away in the month of August and I was offered a position a month later.

Maybe we are rewarded with our return to the workplace because we utilized our vacation time without pay to extend our hearts; a gift of love that keeps on giving love to others.

Ultimately, being unemployed offered me exploration; time to become aware of my own passions and realize that we are meant to utilize our talents with the sole purpose of sincerely guiding others to a better day rather than spend time off strategically figuring out how to win the lottery. Not knocking those that do. If you have the answer to that one, feel free to share.

What talents of my own could I use to reach those goals? For me, it was by being able to write about my struggles in life and career that could express hope in volatile times.

Unemployment allowed me to develop my writing talent and consistent belief about the price of gold in a positive attitude and becoming a true survivor. It was time for me to write about being a true friend. As a result, I have contributed to several publications but my message remains the same; for my readers to believe in their own greatness.

Maybe we are in transition in our career with a job that is not paying the bills and though we keep applying, interviewing, we just never receive the results we expect. Maybe we are suppose to be in that position, not for ourselves, but for the sake of our co-workers who really need us. Another divine purpose we may not recognize.

Small gestures, smiles, words of encouragement, and determination can define the blessings of unemployment. Helping others will find a place of life-time achievement in own our hearts; more important than any other type of awards we could add to our resumes.

It has been said that most in their final days never seem to reminisce or talk about their career, financial accomplishments and wishing for that bigger house….only the love we have shared with others .